Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quickly building a legal wall to block asylum claims by economic migrants in the so-called “caravan” which has traveled from Honduras to Texas.
“These individuals—and their smugglers—ignored the willingness of the Mexican government to allow them to stay in Mexico,” Sessions said in a Monday statement, adding:
This is a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system. There is no right to demand entry without justification …
Accordingly, I have directed our U.S. Attorneys at the border to take whatever immediate action to ensure that we have sufficient prosecutors available. I have also directed that we commit any additional necessary immigration judges to adjudicate any [asylum] cases that may arise from this ‘caravan.’”
Sessions’ legal barrier against asylum claims by economic migrants is backed up by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who issued a statement saying “if members of the ‘caravan’ enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law.”
Because of several loopholes in border laws, migrants can walk through Nielsen’s border guards to ask Sessions’ immigration judges for permission to file asylum claims in federal courts. That process is tightly governed by existing laws and court precedents, ensuring that border officers and immigration judges can only decline those migrant requests if the asylum claims are very weak.
After filing an asylum claim, migrants are given court dates, often two or even three years after they cross the border. Then they are released and also given a work permit. This “catch and release” process means migrants can easily use the loopholes to work legally in the United States for a few years, and can later walk away from their asylum claims to work as illegal immigrants in the United States.
Since 2011, when President Barack Obama loosened border procedures, these loopholes have allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to collectively overwhelm the asylum process, so creating a backlog of almost 700,000 cases and an average wait of two years.
Sessions’ statement shows he is taking deliberate actions to block economic migrants from filing weak asylum claims.
First, his statement highlights that fact that the migrants have already refused to file for asylum in Mexico. That statement is a reminder to immigration judges on the border that the migrants’ refusal to apply for asylum in Mexico suggests that they are economic migrants and so cannot apply for asylum in the United States. According to the federal regulation, “an alien is considered to be firmly resettled if, prior to arrival in the United States, he entered into another nation with, or while in that nation received, an offer of permanent resident status, citizenship, or some other type of permanent resettlement.”
Second, Sessions is sending extra prosecutors and judges to the border so they can quickly process migrants’ asylum claims prior to the deadline for releasing them into the United States. If Sessions’ border judges can follow the set process by the legal deadlines, the migrants can be flown home instead of being released.
Third, Sessions is threatening jail terms to migrants and smugglers who lie to Nielsen’s border officers or to his judges. “Smugglers and traffickers and those who lie or commit fraud will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Sessions said. For example, some migrants claim to be the parents of other people’s children to help get through the asylum process.
Fourth, Sessions also reminded voters — and the media — that Congress created the loopholes and can fix them, saying:
Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is essential to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens. But, as President Trump has warned, the need to fix these loopholes and weaknesses in our immigration system is critical and overdue.
The caravan, as Breitbart Texas reports, has been traveling through Mexico with little pushback from the Mexican government with a goal of making it to the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump on Monday said he was instructing DHS to do everything in the agency’s power to block the caravan of Central Americans from crossing into the U.S.
Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S. We may make this a condition of the new NAFTA Agreement. Our Country cannot accept what is happening! Also, we must get Wall funding fast.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
Earlier in April, Trump directed Sessions, Nielsen, and other others to explore their existing authority to exclude migrants without any new legislation from Congress.
Nielsen said in a statement that DHS is looking to take tough action against the foreign nationals if they illegally cross into the United States:
DHS continues to monitor the remnants of the ‘caravan’ of individuals headed to our Southern border with the apparent intention of entering the United States illegally. A sovereign nation that cannot – or worse, chooses not – to defend its borders will soon cease to be a sovereign nation. The Trump Administration is committed to enforcing our immigration laws – whether persons are part of this ‘caravan’ or not.
If members of the ‘caravan’ enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law.
For those seeking asylum, all individuals may be detained while their claims are adjudicated efficiently and expeditiously, and those found not to have a claim will be promptly removed from the United States.
However, should the Central Americans seek asylum in the U.S. at a port of entry, there is no guarantee that DHS can prevent the foreign nationals from being released into the interior of the country while they await their court proceedings.
A DHS official told Breitbart News that some of the foreign nationals with the caravan could be released because of current immigration policy that allows for the program known as “Catch and Release” that has been exacerbated due to an under-funding of detention space for DHS.
With signature, Trump authorizes to increase the number of illegal aliens who will be released into the interior of the U.S. through Catch-and-Release. https://t.co/g3HxLc6rIp
— John Binder 👽 (@JxhnBinder) March 23, 2018
Experts who spoke to Breitbart News have explained how the Trump administration could unilaterally end Catch and Release. For example, the president can use National Guard troops to build tent cities along the U.S.-Mexico border to detain ore migrants instead of releasing them before their asylum claims are heard by judges.
As Breitbart Texas reported last year, a rush of new migrants in early 2018 has forced border officers to restart “Catch and Release” policies, which incentivizes an increasing number of border-crossings.
In November 2017, Border Patrol warned that they did not have the detention facility space to hold border-crossers until their immigration hearings, Breitbart Texas reported.
Trump wants new agency options to block economic migrants b/c Congress/estb. won't stop the cross-border inflow of cheap labor. Turns out, he's got many tools to adjust migrants' cost/benefit calculations: https://t.co/tlD2uwhMKK
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) April 12, 2018
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.